AOL Autos set out in June to give away a 2012 MINI Countryman to kick off a new program we are calling the AOL Autos Giveaway. Some people say, "nobody ever wins those things." But somebody did. And we are setting out to give away even more cars, as well as automotive accessories, to our loyal readers and Facebook followers in the coming months.
Before we reveal our winner and the actual car we gave away, find out a little more about the MINI Countryman and the trip that AOL Autos took in one across America in early July.
And make sure you go all the way to the end and see our video about our kickoff of AOL Giveaway, and see how you can benefit in the coming months.
We chose a MINI Cooper Countryman S to drive from New Jersey to Los Angeles because AOL Autos and Autoblog have been driving one for a year as a long term tester vehicle. Rather than take the car from dealer stock, we ordered the car from where it is built, Graz, Austria. These are the specs and cost of the car.
MSRP: $25,350 - $27,050
Invoice: $22,897 - $24,427
Fuel Economy: 26 mpg City, 32 mpg Highway
We added the Technology package for our winner, which includes MINI Connected with navigation, a system that allows full integration of Smartphone to the car's audio system, at an additional cost of $2,750.
Research the MINI Countryman
MINI Countryman Photos & Information
MINI Countryman Specs
MINI Countryman Local Dealer Price Quote
Just about all of the AOL Autos and Autoblog staff editors drive the Countryman. This is what some of our reviewers and testers said about the car.
AOL Autos Editor-in-Chief David Kiley: "The Countryman takes the best bits of the MINI Cooper -- the fun, the styling, the personality -- and gives you a more useful and handy package, and four doors. We drove the car almost 4,000 miles in ten days, and found it to be a very worthy road-trip car. About the only compaint we had was that the potatoes we tried to cook on the engine block didn't get done."
AOL Autos Senior Editor Scott Burgess: "The MINI Countryman, the biggest of the MINI family, was a surprisingly good cruiser. The big seat, smooth ride and relative quiet interior keeps the driver comfortable. Even after a grueling 500 mile day, when you get out of the MINI Countryman, you're ready for a new city's nightlife.
However, the Countryman still provides that go-kart like ride when it's needed. On the Tail of the Dragon, the Countryman held its lines through more than 300 turns in just 11 miles and the acceleration was quick, especially in the manual model tested and forced to stay in second gear.
But for more realistic driving, the Countryman excels. It's easy to park in a city, gets good gas mileage on the highway and provides lots of storage, especially if only two people are traveling. Four people might crimp this car's style on a cross country adventure. While the interior controls, such as the toggle switches for the windows and the strange stereo buttons, feel more like a novelty, after a day of driving the car, everything makes sense. Most cars providing similar controls would be downgraded, but the MINI just calls them quirky, for quirky's sake."
Autoblog's Steven Ewing: "When we first hopped into the Countryman with MINI's McDowell riding shotgun, he told us that the most important part of the development process was making sure that the driving dynamics stay true to what people have come to expect from the brand. After all, our biggest fear with the Countryman was that it might not be fitting of the MINI badge, and not just in terms of size. MINI has created some of the best-handling cars on the planet, and its latest crossover – amazingly – delivers."
Autoblog's Jeff Sabatini: "Regarding the size: It's perfect. Not only has MINI managed to figure out the exact dimensions that make the Countryman both a "real" car and yet still small enough to be a MINI, it's still a great driver. In many ways, it's a better all-around car than its more petite siblings, not in the least because it doesn't suffer as much from the short-wheelbase pitching over highway expansion joints that can be a problem in a hardtop MINI Cooper. The steering is excellent and the car turns in and corners like a whip. The power transfer of the all-wheel-drive system makes the Countryman's larger size much less of an issue, as it starts to feel more like a BMW when it's really pushed."
We took a Countryman on a cross country drive with MINI as part of the company's 2012 MINI Takes the States rally, in which we covered 16 states and almost 4,000 miles.
Nothing puts a car through paces like averaging 400 miles a day, driving through rain, blazing heat of Arizona and California desert, flat expanses of highway through Iowa and Nebraska and the elevations of Colorado.
The Countryman proved an able chariot, with our only complaint, mostly evident on a long road trip, the location of the upholders relative to the window toggles on the console and the shifter. We managed, though. And it proved to be the perfect size car for two people, and even a third at times, to cross the country.
We drove the Dragon's Tail in Tennessee and the week that Andy Griffith died, we visited Mt. Airy, N.C., the town on which his fictional Mayberry was based in the Andy Griffith Show.
We hit Chicago and the wind-farms of Iowa. If you have never driven through the plains states to see where the country's food comes from, especially the corn, make sure you put it on your bucket list.
We also saw the canyons of Colorado and desert of New Mexico, Arizona and California.
Editor-in-Chief David Kiley drove what he calls "the left-side of the country" for the first time. That is not political speak. Kiley had driven here and there in Arizona and Colorado. But he had never driven through the states on the left side of the country with the finish line of Santa Monica Pier in mind. "Everyone should drive the country and see how grand it all is, and take advantage of one of our best assets--the Interstate Highway system," says Kiley.
When the AOL Autos team returned from the 2012 MINI Takes the States cross-country rally, we awarded a brand new MINI Countryman to a 19-year old pre-Med student in Commerce, Michigan, just 20 miles or so from the editorial offices of AOL Autos in Birmingham, MI. Jasneet J. is working hard to become a doctor. She says her father's first car was an original MINI. She has been driving the family's Chrysler to and from school, but now she has her own wheels to get through Michigan State University medical school and beyond.
"I still can't believe I won this car…we always say that 'no one ever wins these things,' but I won..I really won," said Jasneet. "When my brother told me, 'I think you won a car,' we were all pretty skeptical, but it's real," said Jasneet.
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